Soulpepper cancels production, cuts ties with Leslie Lester, wife of Albert Schultz

TORONTO – Soulpepper Theatre Company has severed ties with another key figure and cancelled an upcoming production days after its founding artistic director stepped down over sexual misconduct allegations.

The Toronto-based company said Saturday in a release it has formally parted ways with executive director Leslie Lester, who took a voluntary leave of absence when four actresses levelled allegations against her husband Albert Schultz.

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The women filed lawsuits against Schultz and Soulpepper, claiming the renowned director had sexually harassed them with impunity for years.

“The conduct as described is completely antithetical to the values of Soulpepper. Consequently, we requested and accepted Albert’s immediate resignation,” the release said.

Schultz has denied the allegations and said he will “vigorously defend” himself against them. The allegations have not been tested in court.

WATCH: Albert Schultz resigns from Soulpepper, 4 actresses file civil lawsuits against actor

The theatre company said it was unaware of any allegations of misconduct against Schultz or anyone else, having conducted investigations into the issue as recently as this past fall.

“We did not know that Albert Schultz was alleged to have engaged in any harassment. No such complaints ever made their way to the board,” the release stated.

The theatre company revealed in October that it had severed ties with longtime guest artist Laszlo Marton, who it alleged had engaged in sexual harassment.

The Soulpepper board said that after the Marton issue came to light it made extensive enquiries about any other potential issues of harassment, or whether any other harassment concerns had been expressed.

“We were assured that there had been no other harassment of any kind by anyone at the company,” it said Saturday. “After an independent review by a workplace policy expert in the fall of 2017, we were further assured that we had the right policies and procedures in place to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.”

The board said it is “committed to a process of reflection, renewal and change.”

WATCH: Women speak about their allegations against Schultz

Soulpepper said it has also cancelled an upcoming production of “Amadeus,” which Schultz was set to direct.

This action was taken at the request of the company’s artists, it said.

A group of artists issued a statement Saturday saying they were “experiencing profound anger, hurt, and confusion” following the allegations against Schultz and Soulpepper.

“We reached a consensus to recommend not to continue with the show (“Amadeus”), the group said.

But they said they are “determined to reimagine the future at Soulpepper by grappling with where the company has come from, facing difficult questions, in order for healing and transformation to take place.”

Soulpepper bills itself as Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre company and Schultz played a key role in its repertoire. He is also executive producer on the hit CBC TV series, “Kim’s Convenience,” a television actor with roles on shows including “Street Legal” and “Alias Grace,” and was honoured with an Order of Canada in 2013.

Soulpepper also provides training for aspiring actors and theatre artists.

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